Islanders-Wild Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 16, 2011
The Minnesota Wild are trying to regroup after back-to-back losses slowed their momentum. Coping with a slew of injuries may pose a major obstacle to getting it back. The Wild look to withstand the absences of as many as four forwards when they host the struggling New York Islanders on Saturday night. No team has more points than Minnesota (20-8-4), but the club is on the brink of its first three-game losing streak. The Wild had a season-high seven-game winning streak halted with Tuesday's 2-1 loss at Winnipeg, which they followed with a 4-3 shootout defeat against Chicago the next day. Gaining only one of four points in the standings was tough enough, but Minnesota may have been dealt more significant blows with injuries to forwards Mikko Koivu (leg), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (broken nose) and Guillaume Latendresse. Koivu, who leads Minnesota with 28 points, won't play Saturday. The captain has four goals and four assists during a six-game scoring streak. Just off injured reserve after missing a month with a concussion, Latendresse returned and scored against the Jets, but didn't play beyond the first period Wednesday. The next day, the Wild put the winger back on IR, where he joins Devin Setoguchi (lower-body injury). Despite their many injuries, the Wild are confident their depth can help withstand those absences. "I think we'll be okay," right wing Cal Clutterbuck told the team's official website. "I think honestly collectively the way we play the game, we're not relying solely on our top six offensive skill players to win hockey games, which is good when you run into unfortunate circumstances like this." Continued production from Kyle Brodziak would surely help. The center leads the Wild with 11 goals, netting six in eight games and three in the last two at Xcel Energy Center. He's already five goals shy of his career high, set last season. Niklas Backstrom is expected to be back in net after allowing five goals on 58 shots over the last two games. He's posted a 3.79 goals-against average while losing his last two meetings with the Islanders (9-14-6), including a 12-save effort in a 2-1 loss in New York on Oct. 10. Losers of four straight, the Islanders are opening a three-game road trip trying to avoid their longest slide since dropping a season-high six in a row from Oct. 20-Nov. 3. They got closer to that mark Thursday, blowing a lead by surrendering two goals early in the third period to fall 3-2 to Dallas. New York has been outscored 8-3 after the second period during the losing streak. "We have to get better at playing with a lead," right wing P.A. Parenteau said Parenteau is tied with John Tavares with a team-leading 24 points, and he's collected 10 of those - nine assists - in the past nine games. He had two assists against the Wild in October. Tavares, meanwhile, doesn't have a point in three career meetings with Minnesota, and that may not change if his recent play is any indication. The center has one goal on 16 shots over the past four games. Kyle Okposo, a native of St. Paul, has two goals and two assists in his last three games after posting just eight points in his first 23 contests. The right wing has no points in two visits to his hometown. Left wing Brian Rolston, a member of the Wild from 2005-08, is unlikely to play after suffering a concussion Thursday.
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